Monday, July 14, 2008

NEWSFLASH: Warner Bros. Remembers They Own a Comic Book Publisher!

DC and Warner Bros. having a summit on pulling their act together on the comic book movie front?

Well, it's about darned time.

It's been a classic case of dog versus tail. At Marvel Comic, oops, excuse me, I mean Marvel Entertainment, the comics are the dog and the movies are the tail. Yes, the tail may be much BIGGER than the dog, but it's still a question of who's wagging whom. Marvel's memory is quite clear and they know that until they started pumping out the films, they were on the verge of backruptcy. Remember that? Marvel's clearly ticking through its available and most high profile characters one by one, and building their brand by building movies around them.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. is busy churning out, oh, "The Bucket List", "Fool's Gold", "10,000 B.C.", and the box office boffo "One Last Call". All this while it's got a panoply of American culture's most recognizable fictional character, known for generations, with the kind of high public profile that Marvel dreams of, all gathering dust on the cinematic shelf.

Oh, I'm not being fair, I know. The Batman franchise is pretty much exercising its full muscle, and Superman is at least, well, awake now. Quick what was Warner Bros. biggest movie splash in 2007? That's right: 300. And, as a graphic novel, 300 didn't exactly fly off the shelves, you know. It's one of things people kind of just ... look at; not buy.

Some of surprise hits at the theater have been based on what I can only kindly call "sleeper" or "cult" comics. I mean, Hellboy? Really? History of Violence? Friggin' Art School Confidential? Okay, that wasn't exactly a "hit", but you get my point. The studios are figuring out, thanks in part to Marvel's cinema chutzpah, that even the most obscure and poor-selling comic book generally has more potential than the average stack of Hollywood screenplays.

I think either Wacko or Yakko has finally woken up and smelled the popcorn: "Hey, these 'comic book movies' might be something popular and profitable... if only we had the rights to some comic book characters... ." Part of the problem, of course, is that Warner, which makes movies, is the dog, and DC, which makes comics, is the tail. Now, that's not something that can be really changed, but it can be ameliorated. Do the smart thing, Warner: set up a sub-studio, or an "imprint", or whatever you movie folks call it, whose sole job is to put on movies based on the comic book properties Warner owns, and put Michael Uslan there.

And take another tack from Marvel: focus your love and attention on the characters themselves and the comic books they came from, not on their previous media appearances. The previous Batman franchise faltered when it became an homage more to the Adam West show than an interpretation of the Bob Kane comics, and the Superman franchise stumbled out of the gate because it insisted on being a sequel (a remake, really) of a movie that came out 30 years earlier, rather than being about the Superman of today.

Learn also the (eventual) lessons of Smallville: stop being embarrassed about it being a comic book. Embrace the cape. That includes the shared universe of heroes; when a guest appearance by Aquaman causes a huge ratings spike, that should tell you something. After that, Smallville virtually became the JLA Headquarters.

The excitement being generated by the prospect of a joint Avengers movie that's being set up is nearly obscene. And, face it, almost no 'regular' Americans could rattle off an Avengers roster, whereas most of them could make a decent stab at listing the classical Justice League. The JLA's profile is off the charts compared to the Avengers. Warner's is the spoiled rich kid too bored to play with the fantastic toys it already owns, while Marvel is being the imaginative kid with a set of Legos.

Thanks for waking up, Warner Bros.! "Wonder Woman: the Movie" will appear in her comics themselves, when it should have been premiering on the real world big screen. Roll up your sleeves, and try to catch up... .

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

"focus your love and attention on the characters themselves and the comic books they came from, not on their previous media appearances."

And for that matter, give the viewer a reason to love the characters too. "Spiderman" worked because Toby Maguire is genetically engineered to be a really nice good guy that you can't help but get behind; "Daredevil" thudded because ... um ... he's a blind guy who fights crime? There was no reason for non-readers to be interested in Matt Murdock's saga, and that was its great liability; we readers were naturally inclined to be interested, but we're not the audience who will make or break a film.

"Superman Returns" also failed, I opine, because it didn't give us any reason to love the big guy in tights. Contrast with "Batman Begins", where a lot of time was spent on Thomas Wayne (what a guy!) and Bruce's transformation from wealthy ne'er-do-well to dedicated protector.

I am pretty sure I am implying something about how many good superhero movies one can make: by about the third movie, you've exhausted the reasons to get behind the hero, and the franchise is likely to tank.

And the "Green Lantern" movie ... ? The best approach is to steal elements of the current "Secret Origin" arc and parts of the "Sinestro War", where we have a young man trying to figure out how to be the best he can be (the ring should not be the focus). The part to steal from "Sinestro War" is the noise about Hal's father's last thoughts, and Hal eventually deciding that it doesn't matter, because what he did was what counts. Also, Sinestro, you're under arrest.

Nightwing Wannabe said...

I have to agree with everything in the post and the comment from anon.

I have always wondered why Marvel had more movies than DC. Aside from the Hulk and Captain America I don't know many people who would know any other Marvel Characters (prior to their movies). People know more DC characters...or at least the JLA ones more, if not from the SuperFriends days...but they still know them.

It always amazes me too as far as novels (Non-graphic) go too, Marvel has all these great fiction novels out there...and though DC has a few good ones that...I hope I own them all...there just is not enough being produced...i know that's neither here nor there with the post of movies...but just thought I would throw that out there.

Warner/DC need to get on the ball and get more movies out there. I was looking forward to the JLA movie that got shelved...but not exactly thrilled with actors they were considering...come on, most of the actresses considered for Wonder Woman were these wafer thin girls who would break in half during rough play on Paradise Island...and they were short...who ever heard of a 5'5" Amazon??? Okay another tangent there...

Anyway I was just posting to say I agree...I got carried away :) LOL as always.

Chris said...

Here here.

I can't figure out why DC is so slow to embrace the idea of putting their comic properties on screen.

Not so long ago comic movies were an abnormality that failed more often than they suceeded.

But that was then. This year comic based movies are the backbone of the summer blockbuster season

Robert said...

Well I hope they can figure out how to do the Wonder Woman movie right. How long has that project been in development hell?

Going along with what anonymous said, Iron Man was a good movie because it was about Tony Stark. Spiderman was about Peter Parker. Superman Returns was about, well, I'm not sure. Batman Begins was about Bruce Wayne.

I hope this summit goes well so I won't have to imagine anymore how cool a Green Lantern movie might be, or a Flash movie, or even a wartime Justice Society movie.

(As for Wonder Woman, Princess Diana is a fish out of water who has never had to deal with gender politics. Put her in "man's world" and let her deal with duplicity from men and women, and the story is about Diana's finding her way in the world. Think a more serious version of "Enchanted". And stop considering actresses who say they don't want to wear the costume.)

Sea_of_Green said...

IF Warner's is going to make more super-hero movies -- PLEASE, for the love of Hitchcock, let the movies be GOOD!!! Nolan's Batman films are the types of Batman films I've been waiting my whole life to see.

As for Green Lantern ... If I can't have a good Green Lantern movie, I'd rather have no Green Lantern movie at all. (Just like I'd rather have NO Daredevil movie, NO Fantastic Four movie, NO Ghost Rider movie, NO "Superman Returns" ...)

Michael said...

I have high hopes for "Billy Batson", based on my love of John August's writing. They really need to cast Ciaran Hinds (Julius Caesar from "Rome")as Black Adam though.

I'd also like to know the real scoop on why Joss Whedon got run off of "Wonder Woman". That movie should've been out by now.

I'm glad that JLA isn't happening, at least like that.

The "Suicide Squad" movie in my head NEEDS to get made.

George Clooney as Rick Flagg
CCH Pounder as Amanda Waller
Helena Bonham Carter as Nightshade
Idris Elba as Ben Turner
Matthew Settle as Floyd Lawton
James Nesbitt as "Digger" Harkness
Tatum O'Neal as Karin Grace
Gina Torres as Mari McCabe
Claudia Black as Duchess
Matthew Lillard and Eva Amurri as Punch and Jewlee
And Steve Buscemi as Arthur Light

totaltoyz said...

I've heard rumors of Patrick Warburton as Captain Marvel, and I hope they remain just that. I won't deny he's a physical and even vocal match, but look at his body of work. He's a clown. How could anyone take the movie seriously with Puddy from Seinfeld in the starring role?

Of course, Michael Keaton as Batman worked, so what am I talking about?

Jacob T. Levy said...

Wow. Steve Buscemi as Dr. Light is a stroke of genius. And the amazing thing i that he could play *either* the Suicide Squad buffoon *or* the Meltzerified creepy scumbag-- or even, given the right script, the transition between the two (something that has, of course, never been successfully accomplished on the comic-book page.)

thegameiam said...

Scip: I couldn't agree more. DC's bench is a LOT deeper than Marvel's, character-wise. (and great Animaniacs reference)

Michael: I have a hard time seeing anyone other than Queen Latifah as Amanda Waller. Remember her in Chicago?

captain said...

halo ... like comic also yeah?
I like japan comic of naruto episode

Rohan Williams said...

To be fair to DC, though, The Dark Knight blows most of Marvel's movies out of the water, and it's at least equally as good as Iron Man. And it doesn't incorporate the 'shared universe' at all, and is a better movie for it. So a JLA movie isn't necessarily a great idea.

Robert said...

I don't know, a clown in the role of Captain Marvel, playing it straight, might work beautifully. There should be some whimsy in the character.

Although I admit I stopped watching "Seinfeld" by the time his character was introduced, so I don't know anything about the specific actor.

totaltoyz said...

Although I admit I stopped watching "Seinfeld" by the time his character was introduced, so I don't know anything about the specific actor.

I think he's on some sitcom right now about a married guy with a man-whore bachelor buddy played by David Spade; I've never seen it. You may have seen him as Cad Lackey in the Underdog movie; he's also the voice of Joe, the paraplegic cop, on Family Guy.

totaltoyz said...

Although I admit I stopped watching "Seinfeld" by the time his character was introduced, so I don't know anything about the specific actor.

I think he's on some sitcom right now about a married guy with a man-whore bachelor buddy played by David Spade; I've never seen it. You may have seen him as Cad Lackey in the Underdog movie; he's also the voice of Joe, the paraplegic cop, on Family Guy.

SallyP said...

"Warner is the spoiled rich kid too bored to play with the fantastic toys it already owns, while Marvel is being the imaginative kid with a set of Legos".

Well that pretty much hits the proverbial nail on the head. Not to mention the familiarity of a whole lot of people with DC characters. Who knew about Iron Man before the movie? Just comic book fans. Now EVERYBODY knows. Same for Wolverine.

Please make a Green Lantern movie. Please God, make it be good.

Citizen Scribbler said...

Patrick Warburton showed his superhero chops portraying The Tick in the live t.v. program. It only lasted one short season but, to my taste, it was awesome and I'd be very interested in seeing a Captain Marvel film starring him as The Big Red Cheese.

Or any number of DCU movies. I'm crossing my fingers for Kamandi, The Series and Justice League II: Electric Boogaloo.

-Citizen Scribbler

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

2010 we'll be able to see the drek that will be foisted upon us with the Jonah Hex movie. Rather than making a western about a MAN, they're making a zombie movie that is a western with a guy who hunts them.

The key to all of the good hero flicks are about a person overcoming odds and growing and learning about themselves. Superman Returns didn't work because it was the same movie we had already seen (without the part where he grew up) and it had nothing in the character that changed.

We want heroes to overcome not only monsters and machines, but that overcome society and even themselves, because THAT is something that we all want to be able to do.

Anonymous said...

Oh, not Steve Buscemi ... for Arthur Light, you want Andy Dick, who was recently arrested for molesting a 17-year-old girl.

Mug shot. Holy smokes, that's the guy.

totaltoyz said...

He looks more like Jonathan Crane to me.

plok said...

Um...you guys know Patrick Warburton plays Brock Sampson on The Venture Brothers, right?

Anonymous said...

The former WWF/E diva Chyna would be the perfect Wonder Woman.

An eclipso movie would be cool too.